France accuses Apple of undermining the country’s ‘StopCovid’ app

France accused Apple on Tuesday of undermining its effort to fight the coronavirus by refusing to help make its iPhones more compatible with the government’s planned “StopCovid” contact-tracing app.

France StopCovid app


Apple’s iPhones normally block access to Bluetooth unless the user is actively running an app. French officials want Apple to change the settings to let their app access Bluetooth in the background, so it is always on. So far, they say, Apple has refused.

“Apple could have helped us make the application work even better on the iPhone. They have not wished to do so,” France’s minister for digital technology, Cedric O, told BFM Business TV.

“I regret this, given that we are in a period where everyone is mobilised to fight against the epidemic, and given that a large company that is doing so well economically is not helping out a government in this crisis.”

“We will remember that when time comes,” the minister added.

MacDailyNews Take: How successful would Apple be if they destroyed user privacy upon every whim of overreaching, in-over-their-heads bureaucrats? Apple is not refusing to allow apps to access to Bluetooth tracking in the background. That’s exactly what Apple’s API is intended to accomplish.

What should be remembered is that France’s “digital technology” minister is too stupid and/or hungry for tracking data to do most every other western country in the world has done: Work with Apple and Google’s exposure notification APIs.

France, along with some other countries, wants to keep contact data in a central database, arguing this would make it easier for the authorities to track suspected coronavirus cases.

MacDailyNews Take: And, you know, track other things, too, for now and forever, without end.

O, the French minister, said he could not explain the reasoning behind Apple’s decision on Bluetooth.

“We consider that oversight of the healthcare system, fighting the coronavirus, is a matter for governments and not necessarily for big American companies,” he said.

MacDailyNews Take: So, create create your own smartphones, ecosystem, and operating system, O.

Surely the great and powerful government of France can do it much better than a “big American company.”

And, O is either highly forgetful or he’s lying: Apple and Google have shown the world their reasoning on the use of Bluetooth for contact tracing.

O sounds enamored of making veiled threats. Wielding his massive French economy. Without which, Apple would nonetheless prosper for a thousand years.

The French minister said the app should be ready to be deployed on June 2 regardless of Apple’s stance, and would enter a testing phase in the week of May 11 when the country starts to unwind its lockdown.

MacDailyNews Take: D.O.A. F.U., O.

No location data is truly anonymized. It can be cross-matched with other publicly-available data to identify and track individuals. The idea of any government requiring cellphone tracking to monitor its citizens’ movements, regardless of the reason, is chilling. — MacDailyNews, April 2, 2020

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. — Benjamin Franklin

Regardless of the extent of Bluetooth access, no matter how well-designed the Apple-Google contact tracing system is on paper, in practice too few people will install and use it. These apps, including France’s StopCovid app, are designed to provide a digital security blanket to help increase confidence for going back to work more than anything else. More about the myriad issues of Bluetooth COVID-19 contact tracing apps can be found in our Takes
here, here and here.

And, “O” is a stupid name.


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